Memorial Medical Center in Lowell, Massachusetts is a 220-bed,
full-service community hospital. Known for its large and active
cardiology and oncology services, as well as its busy ER and radiology
departments, it represents the marriage of two local Catholic hospitals
almost nine years ago. During the operational phase of the merger, Steve
Walter, with two previous mergers under his belt, was brought on board as
Director of Diagnostic Imaging to officiate.
Heavy Volume, Old Equipment, Environmental Issues = Problems, Problems,
During the first
three years, Saints Memorial saw radical workflow changes in the radiology
department as a result of this hospital union. There were some economies
and efficiencies as one hospital began to handle the majority of patient
services for what were two active acute care facilities. But with their
patient caseload continuing to increase, the radiology department was
pushed to the max. Saints Memorial upgraded some of what Mr. Walter calls
their "more exotic modalities:” digital angiography, digital nuclear
medicine, spiral CT, digital cardiac cath, and digital fluoroscopy.
But "the infrastructure of the basic bread and
butter radiology business was left to just really take a beating,"
The situation only worsened with time. The diagnostic
radiology department at Saints Memorial had been built around three
daylight systems. They had been upgraded several times and one had been
completely replaced. They were already experiencing significant amounts of
downtime when their manufacturer announced they would no longer be
supported, in part due to their age.
In addition, by the late 1990’s the city of Lowell
was coming out with very aggressive standards for effluent particulate
control. The hospital administration got quotes from consultants, and
discovered that upgrading the recovery equipment to meet the new standards
would have been exceedingly costly. Yet at the same time, wet processing
was beginning to cause the hospital more immediate plumbing and flooding
The hospital administration readily understood the
urgency of the situation and offered to replace the daylight systems.
However, the radiology department did not want to pay, as Mr. Walter
explained, “$70,000 a piece for a system that would just improve the
status quo without doing anything to advance the department in terms of
preparing for a digital platform.” Instead, they argued not only to get
out of screen imaging and into digital imaging, but also to get out of all
wet laser processing and into dry processing completely.
An Unexpected Choice Pays Off
“People say that you usually already have a vendor in
mind when you ask for quotes or RFPs,” explains Steve Walter with a
chuckle. “And when we went into this process I can honestly ssay that
Konica was not immediately in the picture. In fact, we didn’t want to
really consider Konica in the first place because they were so new to this
arena. There was an exposure there and we didn’t want to risk it.” Other
companies seemed like a more conservative choice at the time because they
had older legacies in the imaging market than Konica, and because Saints
Memorial was already using one competitor for its daylight system.
That kind of thinking ultimately proved to be wrong.
“As it turned out, the Konica rep offered us a fresh approach to solving
our problems,” states Mr. Walter. “Not only were we more impressed with
Konica’s product design, but the Konica team became a partner in my
business,” he continues.
Eventually, after a review process that Mr. Walter
conducted together with Saints Memorial's Chief of Radiology and a Senior
Technologist, they chose Konica for several product and financial reasons.
Under their criteria, it became a courting competition between Konica and
three industry leaders. One suitor was eliminated early by its
non-competitive pricing. Another competitor, with a long history of
market dominance, would have cost Saints Memorial roughly $75,000 more in
film costs per year. They also could not match Konica's dry laser imager
capacity of 150 films per hour. They found that a third vendor was close
but couldn't match Konica's ease-of-loading and workflow performance. On
the finance side, Konica's package of equipment, film and service
contracts were very competitive. "It was obvious Konica wanted to work
with us and the overall economics of their proposal were by far the best,"
states Mr. Walter.
When all was said and done, Konica Medical Imaging
sold Saints Memorial two REGIUS CR systems and three DRYPRO dry laser
imagers. Konica also sold the complete network hardware, including the
network gateway and interfaces. All of the Konica products are compatible
with the DICOM industry standard, to allow flexibility and scalability in
the long-term and even integration with third-party vendors.
Integration, Training, Support
Clearly, Konica was able to outshine the competitors
through their sales presentation of the new product. But how would Konica
fare with the critical issues of integration, training and support? The
answer was a pleasant surprise for Mr. Walter. "Installation was extremely
smooth," claims Mr. Walter. "Everything was pre-staged to the degree that
it was simply roll-it-out, plug-it-in and turn it on. Our
across-the-board conversion to CR and dry laser processing was the single
most significant initiative for our department in the past 10 years.
Konica's solution allowed us to make a complete conversion from a
conventional film-screen system to a total digital, DICOM-compliant
imaging network in the space of two weeks!"
[Image caption: Stacey Leigh - Staff Technologist &
Tony Gates - Clinical Coordinator working on the Konica DRYPRO Dry Laser
Training went equally well, with Walter observing
that "within three or four weeks, almost everyone was comfortable and
within two months everyone was proficient with the system." Saints
Memorial now has roughly 40 technologists that use the REGIUS CR systems
and DRYPRO dry laser imagers.
Saints and Konica Grow Together
When asked where Saints Memorial is going, Mr. Walter
answered without hesitation, "We are just waiting to give birth to PACS.
We have the 'nurseries' all ready and everything we need to go." He
envisions a Picture Archiving Computer System (PACS) implementation soon.
Although Saints Memorial has already realized considerable return on
investment through Konica's CR system, they predict even greater
opportunities with this next phase. They foresee PACS as the key to high
clinical image quality and accelerating access to diagnostic data that
will benefit their physicians and patients alike. Mr. Walter concludes by
saying, "Konica has proved to me that they keep their promises. That
makes all the difference in the world when you have to make major
decisions that will affect you and your department for years to come."
MEEN... Imaging Technology News... November/December